Canada to remove China’s top messaging app WeChat from government devices

Kaspersky also on the way out due to ‘unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security'

The government of Canada has decided that Tencent’s WeChat app, and Kaspersky's security suite, are too risky to run on government-issued mobile devices.

The president of Canada’s Treasury Board, Anita Anand, announced the ban on Monday.

“The Chief Information Officer of Canada determined that WeChat and Kaspersky suite of applications present an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security,” the announcement states. “On a mobile device, the WeChat and Kaspersky applications data collection methods provide considerable access to the device’s contents.”

WeChat and its China-only version Weixin have over 1.3 billion monthly average users according to Chinese tech giant Tencent’s most recent results [PDF]. The apps offer messaging, social media, and payment services – a combo Elon Musk hopes to replicate with his planned evolution of X into an “everything app”.

WeChat is thought to be a channel Beijing uses to contact, and influence, the Chinese diaspora, a theory that has earned it critics in some governments. In 2021, for example, the Trump administration tried to ban the app outright – on personal or government devices. That decision was overturned by the Biden administration.

Australia considers WeChat a highly risky chunk of code and some government departments only allow it on devices when there is a clear need for its presence.

Another Chinese app, TikTok, has fared far worse, being banned from government devices down under, in the USA, Taiwan, the UK, and across the European Union.

Kaspersky has faced bans in the USA, UK and Lithuania. In 2022 Germany recommended consumers should not use its wares.

Anand characterised the decision to bin WeChat and Kaspersky as motivated by “a risk-based approach to cyber security” and “to ensure that Government of Canada networks and data remain secure and protected and are in line with the approach of our international partners.”

Canada is a member of the Five Eyes security alliance, so the prospect of government devices leaking info gathered by its partners is not a pleasant one.

The announcement of the ban states that Canada’s government has found no evidence its information has been compromised. ®

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